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This Company Is Crowdfunding a Mission to the Moon

Your reward: a spot in a digital time capsule buried beneath the lunar surface

(© Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Add "moon mission" to a list of the strange things you can back on Kickstarter these days. Lunar One, the first mission from company Lunar Missions Ltd., is seeking nearly a million dollars in pledges to begin planning its trip to space. If all goes as the company hopes, a decade from now the Lunar One spacecraft will land on the moon's unexplored South Pole, drill at least 10 times deeper than any lunar space probe has before, analyze lunar samples and beam the results back to Earth.

"The lunar surface contains a treasure, an archive of history," says University of London planetary scientist Ian Crawford in a video on the Kickstarter page. 4.5 billion years ago, a collision between another planet and Earth may have created the moon. Today, the moon contains a pristine geological record of that collision, our planet and the early solar system, just waiting to be dug up. 

But Lunar Mission's pitch is not just about the science: It's bidding to make this a cultural moment. Backers pledging about $100 will receive a voucher for a "digital memory box," essentially a memory stick that will be buried in the hole that the Lunar One lander digs. Lunar Mission also plans on burying a public archive, NBC News reports, containing a history of civilization. According to the Kickstarter page, these will "be preserved for about a billion years by the exceptional conditions within the Moon." 

The effort has an "impressive list of supporting organizations," says NBC News, which includes a group that helped develope the Rosetta mission. The next month will tell if Lunar Mission has the enthusiasm of the public. The crowdfunding campaign only covers the price tag for the very first stage of planning. (If going to the moon only cost a million dollars, a lot more people would be doing it.) But if the company succeeds, it'll show that people still dream of space travel, enough to throw their money behind it.

About Shannon Palus

Shannon Palus is a science writer, and a researcher for Popular Science. Her work has appeared in Discover, Slate, Ars Technica, and elsewhere. She is based in Philadelphia.

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